Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Atomic Zombie bikes, recumbents, trikes, choppers, tandems - Frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled a Frequently Asked Questions section on the main web site. We occasionally get specific questions about Atomic Zombie DIY plans, so rather than repeating the same answers over and over again, we will blog about some common questions and answers. There are more bike building FAQs here:

Who is Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines?
We are bike builders and co-authors - known as KoolKat and Radical Brad on the AZ Builders Forum - located in Ontario, Canada. Brad Graham has been building his own custom bikes for over 25 years. We launched Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines almost 10 years ago to showcase some of his creations, and it has grown ever since. We (Kat and Brad) design and publish DIY plans and have an extensive international Builders Gallery and Builders Forum.
What format are your plans in and how many pages do they have?
Each of our plans is created as electronic book portable document file (PDF) with high resolution color photos followed by detailed text. Our photos are print quality resolution of at least 1024 by 768 pixels. PDFs can be viewed using Adobe® Reader®, currently the global standard for electronic document sharing. It is the only PDF file viewer that can open and interact with all PDF documents. Every step of the build includes one or more photos, followed by the text explaining in detail how and why. 
The length of our plans varies depending on the complexity of the project, with printed page count ranging from 80 to over 200 pages. A plan that includes 150 printed pages typically includes roughly 150 or more photos along with the included text. Printing the entire plan is not necessary as you can usually read through the plan and then print out only the sections that you need to take into your workshop for reference. However, feel free to print the entire plan if you want to. To ensure consistent image clarity in all of our plans, we use a high quality digital camera and take our photos in a properly lit room with a neutral background. 

I have never tried welding or hacking up a bike, so can I really build my own?
You bet you can! Just take a browse through our Builder's Gallery and have a look at the hundreds of diverse examples of bikes and trikes built directly from our plans. While you are enjoying the photo gallery, keep in mind that most of these amazing custom creations were built by average folks and many were built by those who have never touched a welder before starting into this amazing hobby. Keep in mind that there is a learning curve to everything, but many newbie builders are now seasoned veterans who have a lot of experience and advice to share. 

Where do I find the parts to build the bikes from your plans?
Wherever you can! We like to “shop” at the local scrap yard for bits and pieces when trying out new designs because an inventor can never have enough spare parts on hand. Department stores often put their low end cycles on sale for $150 or less, and these bikes are great for parts. A typical department store steel frame mountain bike will supply you with wheels, transmission, brake and shifter parts, and a lot of weldable steel. Often, the low end steel bikes have decent components as well, and the steel frame means that you can cut and weld any part of it. Almost every bike or trike on our site was fitted with parts recycled from low end department store cycles that were on sale. 
Your local bike shop is another good source for purchasing higher quality components, and if you can find a shop that is “DIY friendly”, you will often find a lot of good advice and some great deals. Some other great parts sources are: landfill sites, yard sales, auctions, flea markets, thrift stores, online and classifieds, and of course family, friends, colleagues, etc. If you plan on taking up this hobby, put the word out to family, friends and coworkers that you will refuse no used bikes! You’ll be surprised how many bikes and parts you will accumulate quickly. Old bikes, exercise equipment, even steel furniture can be used, so build up your spare parts pile. Each of our plans recommends alternative sources for parts and encourages builders to be creative and inventive. That’s the Atomic Zombie® way!

How much does it cost to build bikes based on Atomic Zombie plans?
That is a very difficult question to answer since it is up to you how much you want to or can spend on components. A homebuilt bike or trike will certainly cost you far less than the same type from a manufacturer. By building it yourself, you will end up with exactly what you want. Typically, a homebuilt trike can be put together for a few hundred dollars assuming that you will purchase mainly new mid-range quality components such as rims, tires, cranks, and transmission parts. You could certainly spend a great deal more by using higher end components, but on the flip side, you could build a very nice ride using recycled bicycle parts for almost nothing. We typically use low end components and recycled parts on most of our bikes. They do not cost much to build.

Can I buy a finished bike from you?
No. We do not sell any hardware or finished bikes, trikes, trailers, electric bikes, etc. We aim to inspire others to be creative with their projects, to let go of traditional in-the-box methods and let their imaginations loose. Atomic Zombie® plans allow anyone to build a bike or trike with minimal cost and basic tools. We don’t assume that you have previous experience. Selling one of our completed bikes is something we won’t do because it is simply against what we believe in. 
Yes, there have been some offers, but we weren’t interested. Most of our own bikes are recycled into other Atomic Zombie® bike projects. You may find completed projects for sale by other builders on our forum, or in classifieds, but before you try fitting yourself into someone else’s custom vehicle, consider building your own. There’s a feeling of pride and accomplishment when people ask you where you bought your bike and you tell them, “I built it myself” which in our opinion, outweighs any bragging rights about how much one paid for a mass produced factory built bike!